Moo.com ‘dips toe’ in retail with first physical store

The Moo Shop, which features the full array of Moo products and accessories, reflects Moo’s online presence but adds the physical interaction that is lacking from an online-only business.

Moo.com founder and chief executive Richard Moross said: “We’ve built a big and successful business so far with retailing exclusively online. We’ve managed to engage lots of customers around the world, but there are limits to what a website can do.

“What we’ve found at things like trade shows and conferences is that actually people seeing the physical product itself can be amazing marketing and really instrumental in getting them excited about what Moo’s about and what we can do for them.”

This led the firm to “dip a toe in the retail waters” by opening its first high-street store, for which all printed collateral has been produced in-house on HP Indigo’s at Moo’s nearby east London headquarters and production facility.

The irony of a successful online retailer opening a shop on the UK high street, which has been decimated by – among other things – the rise of internet shoping, is not lost on Moross; however, asked why the firm had decided to take the plunge, he responded: “Why not?”

“I think the challenge for people in retail today is when they have lots of high fixed costs, lots of inventory and a sprawling retail property empire with multiple stores and lots of complexity,” he added.

“Whereas we’re a business with very low inventory, if any, we’ve got our business model well worked out and if we can use our stores in a kind of hybrid way, paralleling our online efforts, we think it’s a great exercise for customers to get to know us better, to have a three-dimensional Moo experience.

“We think the two things should complement each other very well. People still use shops, they’re still around, they still have a fantastic purpose and facility, so we wanted to do something and test it out and see what people thought of it.”

Given the small footprint and proximity to Moo’s Scrutton Street HQ of its retail debut, there will be no printing carried out on-site at the Moo Shop; however, Moross did not rule out the possibility of on-site printing in future, should the store prove a success.

“We won’t have Indigos on-site, it will be more about learning about print. You couldn’t get Indigo quality within the space we have, but that’s not to say that potentially if this goes well that’s something that we could look at,” he said.

“Digital is so quick you could envisage a future where it’s almost instant turnaround from design to proof to actual finished product. But what we’re hoping to do is show what a finished product might look like; perhaps it won’t be your completely personalised design, but I think people can make that link with their imagination.”

Visitors to the Moo Shop will be able to handle the different paper stocks the company uses for its array of business cards and to see printed samples. Moross said that he believed this would help customers to distinguish between Moo and its online rivals, such as Vistaprint.

“I think the store really gives them that opportunity to check that out for themselves and get that hands-on comparison,” he added.

The Moo Shop also makes full use of QR codes and Near Field Communication (NFC) to allow customers to capture products in-store to transact on the website later, while giftcards will also be available to purchase in-store with credit that can be used on the Moo.com website. Customers will also be able to order products online for collection in-store, which will help cut delivery costs and time.

Moross was coy on roll-out plans, adding that the firm had moved very quickly in opening the Boxpark store – going from initial idea to launch in around two months – but said that the firm should have an idea of whether the store is working as planned within six months.

If all goes well, a second Moo Shop – located somewhere in the US – is a likelihood. “I would think [a second store would] almost certainly be in the US – as a test,” said Moross. “If the UK store goes well at Boxpark we would [also] look to move into more permanent premises elsewhere in London.

“We’re definitely interested in the US and we have early thoughts about where that might be and how we might do it. The US market is obviously very different, there are other complexities with that, and we don’t have quite the strength of team in the US yet in terms of size that we do in the UK, so we’ve got a lot more resource that we can focus on the UK right now but we are very interested in doing the US as well in good time.”

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